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The Cistercians in West Wales By DAVID H. WILLIAMS, M.A., PH.D., F.S.A. I. CYMER ABBEY (1198-1536/7) Introduction THE close of the twelfth century saw an undoubted appreciation of the Cistercians in Wales; the stock of the White Monks obviously stood high in national esteem. Not only was Cymer settled by monks from Cwmhir in 1198, and Valle Crucis by a community from Strata Marcella in 1200, but in this last year both Tintern and, probably, Whitland established daughter houses in Ireland, while in the semi-decade of 1199-1203 other possible Welsh foundations of the order were mooted.1 The reason for this peak in the popularity of the White Monks may have lain in the contemporaneous ascendancy of prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, and, although the magnetic force of the Order was soon to wane, Cymer Abbey was one of the enduring results. Unlike most of the older abbeys its foundation was swift, and limited, in its time- range. There was no known change of site or protracted building programme, and no lengthy process of land expansion and consolidation. Most of the abbey's structure is of the first quarter of the thirteenth century-the church, in fact, was never finished. The acquisition of property was completed within ten years; after Llywelyn's charter of 1209 come no records of any further grants. The size of its community probably never compared with that of great houses like Margam and Whitland; indeed, the names of only twenty of its monks have come down to us. In the thirteenth century, there is abundant evidence of the Welshness of its racial composition and political stance; towards the end of the fourteenth (1388) there were but five monks in the house, while at the suppression only one monk remained in addition to the abbot. Documentary evidence is scanty, and it is, therefore, hazardous to rush to general- isations, but Cymer does appear to have placed a greater emphasis on dairying with transhumance, rather than on sheep-rearing and wool production. Shipping and fishing, too, were features of its economy, and, for a small house, mining and metallurgy were remarkably significant. One hesitates to add yet another account of Cymer to the substantial works of the late Keith Williams-Jones, and of the late Robert Richards,3 and the present author readily acknowledges his great indebtedness particularly to the former work. One hopes, however, to provide a limited measure of fresh material, and to examine i David H. Williams, The Welsh Cistercians (1969), p. 33. 2 'Llywelyn's Charter to Cymer Abbey in 1209' in MHS, III. a 'The Cistercians and Cymer Abbey' in MHS, III.